GeneralInterviewsMarathonsNewsRacingMarathon Queen Seraina Boner, with Scandinavian Support, Eyes Unconquered Vasaloppet

Avatar Chelsea LittleSeptember 12, 2013
Swiss national team coach Guri Hetland checks Team Coop's Seraina Boner's time on a threshold interval on Wednesday.
Swiss national team coach Guri Hetland checks Team Coop’s Seraina Boner’s time on a threshold interval on Wednesday.

DAVOS, Switzerland – Seraina Boner hasn’t been part of the Swiss national team since the 2010 season, when the 2006 Olympian was left off the squad for the first time.

But has that stopped her? Not at all. Boner decided three years ago to focus on long-distance racing, and has become the world champion in that discipline. A two-time Birkebeiner winner, last year she also won the prestigious Marcialonga marathon in Italy and the Engadin Marathon in her home region here in Switzerland.

At 31 years old, she might not be part of the national team, but she’s still welcome.

“My philosophy is that anyone who wants to train with us, can,” Swiss head coach Guri Hetland told FasterSkier. “It’s good to have her here to push the women.”

On a recent Wednesday morning Boner was at a national team training session that actually didn’t include any other women, just Dario Cologna and Roman Furger. She was taking advantage of the fact that Hetland was driving the men down a long, narrow, winding hill – not ideal for skiing down – in between intervals, and hopped in for the workout.

“It’s really good for me to join the training group in Davos when I’m back home, and I’m back home pretty often,” Boner said at the end of the session. “It’s more fun if there are more girls around. There are not so many up here, but we try to fix some workouts together, and that helps.”

Boner, who is part of the Team Coop marathon squad, is focused exclusively on racing very long distances. But that doesn’t mean that she can’t train with the other Swiss women, who are primarily focused on sprinting (Laurien Van Der Graaf and Bettina Gruber are tops on the team). In fact, she doesn’t think that she trains many more hours than them, and still does plenty of fast workouts.

“I think that the basic training is pretty much the same probably,” Boner said. “The ones that are more specializing for sprints will have some specific workouts, and I will have some specific workouts for long distance, but the average is pretty much the same…  sometimes it’s good to have company, especially in speed workouts. You can help each other a lot when you’re in a group.”

Boner putting in the hours in Davos.
Boner putting in the hours in Davos.

Boner is also still no slouch at shorter distances. This past season, she won two titles at Swiss national championships. In the 5 k skate, she was fourth behind Americans Liz Stephen, Jessie Diggins, and Holly Brooks. The next day, with the Americans sitting out, she won outright in the 10 k classic pursuit.

But while national teams around the world are gearing up for the Olympics, Boner is focused on the Vasaloppet, a race where she has “always struggled a bit.” She is doing more double-pole training, including a recent 48 k workout in southern Sweden, far from the mountains she is used to here.

“I’ve been three weeks in Norway this summer, so there I focused a lot on double-poling,” Boner said. “And also when we’re at training camps with the team we have a lot of double-poling sessions. But you can also find some flat parts like here, you just have to look for it a bit more.”

And so continues the renaissance of Boner’s career. 41st in her only individual start in the Olympics back in 2006, she has now won the Swix Ski Classics title as well as almost every major European marathon except the Vasaloppet, where she finished third the last time she tried.

Boner has to look outside of Switzerland for support. Despite her dominance at long distances, she is not the star she would be in Norway or Sweden.

“Cross country skiing is not so big in Switzerland,” she said. “Of course, since Dario is racing pretty okay it’s getting bigger and bigger.”

She jabbed Cologna, who was sitting next to her in the team van.

“But it’s not as big as in Scandinavia, at least not marathons and stuff,” she explained. “There is some support, but for doing the long distance I had to join a Scandinavian team and that helps me a lot of course.”

With Scandinavian backing, she hopes to add the legendary Swedish 90 k race to her list of conquests this year.

“That is kind of the biggest, so it’s a goal to have a good race there,” she said.

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Chelsea Little

Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.

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